There three main patent types granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). They are: Utility Patents, Design Patents and Plant Patents. Ninety percent of applications are for a utility patent. There are also three lesser known patent types: Reissue Patents, Defensive Publication and Statutory Invention Registration. All are discussed below:
Issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof. A Utility Patent generally permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.
A Utility Patent provides a broad patent protection, making it difficult for a competing product to avoid patent infringement. It is also capable of protecting many different variations of a product with a single utility patent. It is expensive and normally takes 2-3 years for patent to be granted. If there are ornamental features in the invention, these are not protected.
Utility patents have a current patent term of up to twenty years and are subject to the payment of periodic maintenance fees to keep the patent in force. Under specific circumstances, terms can be extended.
Design Patents are issued for a new, original, and ornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture. The design patent permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the design. Design patents are currently granted for the term of fifteen years from the date of grant.
Design patents are issued much less often as they do not protect the functional features that most inventions have. There are no maintenance fees, making them considerably cheaper than utility patents. The patent is usually granted within 1-2 years. However, design patents can be relatively easy to get around, simply by changing the overall appearance of the competing product.
Issued for new and distinct, invented or discovered asexually reproduced plant types including mutants, hybrids and newly found seedlings other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. The plant patent permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the plant for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing. Plant patents are not subject to the payment of maintenance fees.
Plant patents have a patent term of up to twenty years from the date of filing of the earliest related patent application.